Charles Algernon Parsons

Charles Algernon Parsons
Charles Algernon Parsons

Born 13 June 1854
London, England, United Kingdom
Died 11 February 1931
Kingston Harbour, Jamaica,
Nationality British
Fields Engineering
Institutions Heaton, Newcastle
Alma mater Trinity College, Dublin
St. John's College, Cambridge
Known for Steam Turbine
Notable awards Franklin Medal (1920)

Sir Charles Algernon Parsons OM KCB FRS (13 June 1854 – 11 February 1931) was an Anglo-Irish engineer, best known for his invention of the steam turbine.[1] He worked as an engineer on dynamo and turbine design, and power generation, with great influence on the naval and electrical engineering fields. He also developed optical equipment, for searchlights and telescopes.



Born in London, Parsons was the youngest son of the famous astronomer William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse. He attended Trinity College, Dublin and St. John's College, Cambridge, graduating from the latter in 1877 with a first-class honours degree in mathematics.[2] He then joined the Newcastle-based engineering firm of W.G. Armstrong as an apprentice, an unusual step for the son of an earl; then moved to Kitsons in Yorkshire where he worked on rocket-powered torpedoes; and then in 1884 moved to Clarke, Chapman and Co., ship engine manufacturers near Newcastle, where he was head of their electrical equipment development. He developed a turbine engine there in 1884 and immediately utilized the new engine to drive an electrical generator, which he also designed. Parsons' steam turbine made cheap and plentiful electricity possible and revolutionised marine transport and naval warfare - the world would never be the same again.[3]

First compound Steam Turbine, built by Parsons in 1887

The best steam turbine at the time, invented by Gustaf de Laval was an impulse design that subjected the mechanism to huge centrifugal forces and so had limited output due to the weakness of the materials available. Parsons explained that his appreciation of the scaling issue led to his 1884 breakthrough on the compound steam turbine in his 1911 Rede Lecture:

"It seemed to me that moderate surface velocities and speeds of rotation were essential if the turbine motor was to receive general acceptance as a prime mover. I therefore decided to split up the fall in pressure of the steam into small fractional expansions over a large number of turbines in series, so that the velocity of the steam nowhere should be great...I was also anxious to avoid the well-known cutting action on metal of steam at high velocity."[4]

Parson's first 1MW turbogenerator built for Elberfeld, Germany in 1899. It produced single phase electricity at 4kV.

In 1889, he founded C. A. Parsons and Company in Newcastle to produce turbo-generators to his design.[5] In the same year he set up the Newcastle and District Electric Lighting Company. In 1894 he regained certain patent rights from Clarke Chapman. Although his first turbine was only 1.6% efficient and generated a mere 7.5 kilowatts, rapid incremental improvements in a few years led to his first megawatt turbine built in 1899 for a generating plant at Elberfeld, Germany.[4]

Parsons was also interested in marine applications and founded the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company in Newcastle. Famously, in June 1897, his turbine-powered yacht, Turbinia, was exhibited moving at speed at Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Fleet Review off Portsmouth, to demonstrate the great potential of the new technology. The Turbinia moved at 34 knots. The fastest Royal Navy ships using other technologies reached 27 knots. Part of the speed improvement was attributable to the slender hull of the Turbinia.[6]

Dreadnought. In 1906, it was the first modern battleship and was fastest in the world due to Parsons' steam turbines.

Within two years, the destroyers HMS Viper and Cobra were launched with Parsons' turbines, soon followed by the first turbine powered passenger ship, Clyde steamer TS King Edward in 1901; the first turbine transatlantic liners RMS Victorian and Virginian in 1905, and the first turbine powered battleship, HMS Dreadnought in 1906, all of which were driven by Parsons' turbine engines.[5] Today, Turbinia is housed in a purpose-built gallery at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 1898 and received their Rumford Medal in 1902, their Copley Medal in 1928 and delivered their Bakerian Lecture in 1918.[7] He was knighted in 1911 and made a member of the Order of Merit in 1927.

The Parsons turbine company survives in the Heaton area of Newcastle and is now part of Siemens, a German conglomerate. Sometimes referred to as Siemens Parsons, the company recently completed a major redevelopment programme, reducing the size of its site by around three quarters and installing the latest manufacturing technology. In 1925 Charles Parsons acquired the Grubb Telescope Company and renamed it Grubb Parsons. That company survived in the Newcastle area until 1985.

Parsons' ancestral home at Birr Castle in Ireland houses a museum detailing the contribution the Parsons family have made to the fields of science and engineering, with part of the museum given over to marine engineering work of Charles Parsons.

Parson died on 11 February 1931 on board the steamship Duchess of Richmond while on a cruise with his wife, it followed a collapse from an attack of neuritis.[8] A memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey on 3 March 1931.

See also


Published Works Online

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Charles Algernon Parsons — Charles Parsons Nacimiento 13 de junio de 1854 Londres, Inglaterra …   Wikipedia Español

  • Charles Algernon Parsons — Charles Algernon Parsons …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Charles Algernon Parsons — Sir Charles Parsons Charles Algernon Parsons OM (* 13. Juni 1854 in London; † 11. Februar 1931 an Bord der Duchess of Richmond im Kingston Harbour, Jamaika) war ein britischer Maschinenbauer. Parsons war der jüngste von sechs Söhnen des 3. Earl… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Parsons, Sir Charles Algernon — born June 13, 1854, London, Eng. died Feb. 11, 1931, Kingston Harbour, Jam. British mechanical engineer. He began work at the Armstrong engineering works in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1877 and formed his own company to manufacture turbines and other… …   Universalium

  • Parsons, sir Charles Algernon — ► (1854 1931) Ingeniero británico. Inventó la turbina de vapor de su nombre. * * * (13 jun. 1854, Londres, Inglaterra–11 feb. 1931, Kingston, Jamaica). Ingeniero mecánico británico. Comenzó trabajando en los talleres de ingeniería Armstrong, en… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Charles Parsons — Charles Algernon Parsons Charles Algernon Parsons …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Parsons — Parsons, Talcott Parsons, sir Charles Algernon * * * (as used in expressions) Burkitt, Denis P(arsons) Parsons, Elsie Clews Parsons, Sir Charles Algernon Parsons, Talcott Rosse, William Parsons, 3 conde de …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Charles Parsons — may refer to: Charles Algernon Parsons (1854–1931), British engineer known for his invention of the steam turbine Charles Parsons (philosopher) (born 1933), professor in the philosophy of mathematics at Harvard University Chick Parsons (Charles… …   Wikipedia

  • Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company — was a British engineering company based in Wallsend, North England, on the River Tyne. It was founded by Charles Algernon Parsons in 1897 with £500,000 of capital, and specialised in building the steam turbine engines that Parsons had invented… …   Wikipedia

  • Charles Hesterman Merz — Charles Merz redirects here. For the American racecar driver, see Charlie Merz. Charles Hesterman Merz (5 October 1874 14 or 15 October 1940) was a British electrical engineer who pioneered the use of high voltage three phase AC power… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.